mettre la puce à l'oreille

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by samikahan, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. samikahan Senior Member

    american english
    to pay attention ?!
  2. mathiine Senior Member

    français - France
    no it's not the same. Mettre la puce à l'oreille = faire tilter (= to click?)
  3. cropje_jnr

    cropje_jnr Senior Member

    Canberra, Australia
    English - Australia
    No. Possibly to smell a rat. But without context, we can't really be sure. :)
  4. samikahan Senior Member

    american english
    Thanks guys !
  5. vretmac Member

    Belgium French
    mettre la puce a l'oreille means "causing someone to suspect something", "giving you a clue". The Oxford Hachette dictionnary offers this translation "set someone thinking"

    Hope this helps.
  6. LaRosbif New Member

    English - England
    The film 'Entre Les Murs' translates 'Mettre la puce à l'oreille' as making the penny drop, i.e. someone realising something upon reflection and with the aid of the clue. Could this be right?
    Thanks to anyone who can clarify!
  7. vretmac Member

    Belgium French
    At the risk of being pedantic, the meaning of "Mettre la puce a l'oreille" and "making the penny drop" are quite opposite. Mettre la puce a l'oreille means suspecting something, i.e. the initial hint, whereas "making the penny drop" is when you finally understand something, i.e. the conclusion to a thought process. I am afraid I disagree with this translation entirely.
  8. Lucendiluna

    Lucendiluna Member

    France - French
    I agree with vretmac, and for the same reasons "to click" won't work. Maybe something more in the lines of "to give a hint", or even "arise the matter"??? I'm just trying...
  9. ascoltate

    ascoltate Senior Member

    Montréal, QC
    U.S.A. & Canada, English
    I would say "tips off" works for this, at least in some contexts.

    "to give/drop a hint" pourrait peut-être marcher dans quelques contextes...
    "arise the matter" n'est pas de l'anglais...
  10. Lucendiluna

    Lucendiluna Member

    France - French
    Merci Ascoltate!
  11. Bookmom

    Bookmom Senior Member

    There are so many possibilities: to put a bug in someone's plant a seed in someone's start the wheels set the thought in motion...
  12. échappé belle New Member

    Canada English/French
    I found "to put a bee in someone's bonnet".
  13. philosophia

    philosophia Senior Member

    Arcachon, France
    français (France)
    Maybe the translation is different in these 2 cases :
    cela/ça (quelque chose) m'a mis la puce à l'oreille : something set me thinking. I think Cropje_Jr's "to smell a rat" works in that case.
    Ça m'a mis la puce à l'oreille -> I smelled a rat.
    il/elle (quelqu'un) m'a mis la puce à l'oreille : somebody dropped a hint that set me thinking

    P.S : to make the penny drop -> vendre la mèche, or am I mistaken ?
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2010
  14. échappé belle New Member

    Canada English/French
    But "smelled a rat" does really have a negative connotation (to arouse suspicions of foul play of some sort) which "puce a l'oreille", which could involve either positive or negative information, doesn't have.
  15. philosophia

    philosophia Senior Member

    Arcachon, France
    français (France)
    Ok, then "I smelled a rat" is rather "j'ai senti qu'il y avait anguille sous roche", which can be the meaning of "ça m'a mis la puce à l'oreille" sometimes but not always as you justly pointed out.

    Welcome (back) to the forum échappé belle :)
  16. échappé belle New Member

    Canada English/French
    thanks :) - anguille sous roche is great. To make the penny drop is kind of like "cliquer", like when you finally get it, put the pieces together (as vrtemac said above), only it's a passive thing, someone/something does it to you.
  17. alebeau

    alebeau Senior Member

    New Orleans, La.
    United States - English
    "Ça m'a mis la puce à l'oreille" = That made the lights go off. (In other words, that made me understand. That is, the lightbulb in your mind should be lighting up.)


  18. franc 91 Senior Member

    English - GB
    aroused my suspicions? suddenly I got the inkling that something was going on behind my back?
  19. Pistrix New Member

    For what it's worth, it's an old idiom going back to at least the mid-fifteenth century. It appears in Charles d'Orleans' chansons.
  20. calleighj New Member

    Is it okay to say "What has tipped you off?" when you want to know how the person has found an information, a positive one?
  21. Tazzler Senior Member

    American English
    If someone guessed something correctly, you can say that.
  22. calleighj New Member

    Thank you Tazzler!
  23. Tochka Senior Member

    "Tip you off" can be used for both positive and negative situations. The idea is that there is some secret and this particular bit of information was the first clue that helped to reveal the true state of affairs. (In most situations, this would be put in the simple past, however: "What tipped you off?")
    "Oh, you knew about the surprise party? What tipped you off?"

    Note that "tip someone off" is not used for just any piece of information that a person comes across. It refers to a piece of information that reveals that things are not as they seem or that sheds light on a secret or mystery (e.g. where to find someone or that a secret is being withheld).
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2012
  24. Bookmom

    Bookmom Senior Member

    Oops, cross-post, well done Tochka.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012
  25. petit1 Senior Member

    français - France
    I think Franc91 has the simplest explanation.
  26. Tochka Senior Member

    Yes, I agree with petit 1 that these are good, neutral ways of expressing the idea of "tipping [me] off".
    @Bookmom: Thanks! Kind of you to say so. ;)
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012

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